2022 review
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2022 review

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Published January 15, 2023
It’s fun to kickstart a brand new year this way because I’ve never done any annual review before, and as an awkward beginner, it literally took me weeks to reconnect on what has happened last year (a perfect reason to do this review).

Awakening

Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.
- Albert Einstein
After years of struggling with work and life, I decided that I need a change. I don’t know what’s the path forward and I couldn’t even tell why I’m suffering that much. But there’s one thing I’m sure about, that’s the “same shit, different year” style of life can’t be tolerated anymore. Since then, the veil of the mythical struggles slowly unfolds, moments of awakening begin to arise.
In fact, I don’t think I understand what awakening means until the word pops into my head too often times to dismiss. The moment of enlightenment brought to me so much relief that all my stupidities became transparent but normal, as well as made me to question why I didn’t strive for it earlier. There’s a book which I stumbled across at the beginning of year made a nonlinear impact on this wake-up process, it unpacks so many questions I’ve accumulated over the years with actionable advice that it eventually leads me to a paradigm shift. Highly recommend to anyone in similar situations.
However, a firm belief on the need to change won’t magically solve the what and how of the problem, it merely marks the beginning of a pathless path at best. The cruel reality is that I don’t even know how to set and track goals on my own as I never bothered doing them. I’m simply going with the flow, living a life in autopilot mode, the classic example of you don’t know what you don’t know. Thanks to the source of inspiration of this blog and his article about unlearning, I figure out that to learn again I’d better unlearn what I’ve learned first.

Time

We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one - Confucius
I used to be a layback (a polite way of saying lazy) guy. The idea of managing time and planning ahead feel too overwhelming to me that I couldn’t imagine how I’ll do that. My parents don’t ask me to do it as well, so I had a rather happy childhood. I think it’s a character thing. Like I was always late for school and was a complete disaster on subjects that I’m not interested in. Not to say I’m immune to peer pressure, it just seems that those things aren’t important enough for me to give too much fuck about. Until I came across in recent year, I start to realize that I barely know anything about time. There’re a few other articles reshaped my understanding about it and I've included them in the
🔖
2022 articles
. I’m far from being able to manage it well, but the importance of it really shouldn’t be emphasized, “until we can manage time we can manage nothing else” borrowing it from the management leader Peter Drucker.

Habits

A non-negotiable contract

I participated in the
🌉
SF marathon 10k
and I really loved the experience! Not because it’s hard, it’s not a marathon and most people can do (and actually did) it without practice. But there’s a hidden story, I made a contract with myself while listening to the Atomic Habits audiobook to build a new habit only to prove to myself that I can do it. And I ended up choosing running simply because there’s no excuse if it fails. It’s also not conditioned on external factors like seeking social approvals, otherwise I may go do some muscle work. Not to say there’s any issue with that, it’s just motivation conditioned on external factors is hardly sustainable compare to more intrinsic drives. The deal I made with myself is definite and reachable, except negotiable. The biggest implication it has on me is that If I can’t do it, I probably can’t do anything. I think I’ve made it, it might be small on its own, but it’s an important stepping stone for any greater progress to be made.

Reading

You can’t think well without writing well, and you can’t write well without reading well - http://www.paulgraham.com/read.html
Reading shouldn’t be optional, whether it’s for fun or for learning. There’re a ton of stupid mistakes I’ve made that could be avoided by learning from the experiences and wisdoms of others distilled into good books, or at least substituted by some less stupid ones. It’s much better to feel ashamed about our ignorance while reading than to regret in hindsight with all the what-ifs. I don’t read books (🤦) until I came across The Pragmatic Programmer following the advice of
🧱
Learn the basics well
, I was surprised to find that it’s 100x better than most of the Internet junk food (e.g. this blog). So I made reading books a habit this year and I’m following Shane Parish’s rule of “I don’t worry about any money spent on books”. This may help if you use zlibrary.
Principles is one of best books I read this year, I only finished its Life Principle section, but it has an immediate impact on me as I start collecting my own principles. One important takeaway I’ve got from it is that ego and blind spots are two barriers that will prevent us from achieving anything great in life, it resonates so deeply with me that I put two sticky notes (“Ego is the Enemy” and “Be Water”) on my Mac as a daily reminder. Although I’m not sure if it has made any difference or not.

Writing

is the first page of this blog because I love the idea behind it (again thanks Derek!). I don’t have a writing habit of any form, no diary, no journaling, no whatever. Look at the very first Post, it’s merely a few scattered thoughts on the latest frontend (web) tools. Then there’s the the takeaway I had on my last job, which I want to keep a record as reminder. The rest are just a few small experiments that I run from time to time, as I’m finally convinced that if I don’t hold myself accountable in changing bad habits that don’t work, I’d only end up in the same bad situation again the next year. Probably the biggest benefit for me is that writing helps clear thinking a lot. Not until I type my thoughts into words do I notice my thinking is a mess. It’s too easy to get distracted by small talks in random conversations while ignoring the importance of common sense and logic. Writing makes fallacies in thinking hard to hide.

Meditation

Meditation is intermittent fasting for the mind. Too much sugar leads to a heavy body, and too many distractions lead to a heavy mind. Time spent undistracted and alone, in self-examination, journaling, meditation, resolves the unresolved and takes us from mentally fat to fit. - Naval
It’s a new habit and I still feel that I know nothing about it after a couple months of practice. But the benefits are clear, I’m feeling less rushed than before as my mind gets calmer. I can’t explain the neurological effects it has done to our brain but I know what a busy mind was like. I’ve heard about people’s frustration about how hard it’s to focus during the practice, I’m having the same issue besides I tend to think that’s probably a good reason we’re doing this in the first place. I’m not attached to the outcome as well, I’m merely curious to explore and understand myself better. I started learning about the topic from an introductory book by Andy, along with his Headspace App (lovely animations) to learn the basics. After a few months of trial, I discovered a good deal on another meditation App by Sam Harris. Have a calmer mind is essential for cultivating better self awareness and meditation has some magic on that.

Finance

I’d wish I have something useful to share, but unfortunately I’m completely noob on this. I’m kind of person who puts all his money in his bank saving account. The only thing I didn’t do wrong about finance is that I don’t spend as much, due to the same reason I don’t educate myself about it. Financial literacy is important, I started tracking my spendings last year and I’ll definitely learn more about it and investment this year. But there’s an interesting story about it, as I knew nothing about the tactics I cannot do much besides following some big names. And some YouTube channel (e.g. this one) understands its potential audience, it knows that we’re more sensitive to negative news, especially during a economic downturn period, the channel keeps posting videos with misleading titles. And I got upset by watching that. Luckily I got reminded by a friend about my groundless panic. Be cautious of media that uses keywords like “EVERYTHING”, “LAST”, “COLLAPSE” mixed with celebrity names as its titles. I didn’t subscribe to those channels but the recommendation algorithm keeps pushing its contents to me, 🖕 the algorithm.

Social media

If you're not paying for the product, then you're the product - https://www.thesocialdilemma.com/
The moment I notice that I need conscious effort in deciding if I should hit the damn like button as if it’s yelling at me, I know something goes wrong. I quitted WeChat for a while and it turned out to be too radical, overcompensate to compensate as pointed out by a friend. We all know that social media and smartphone apps are addictive, the iOS screen time stats won’t lie. But it’s probably less obvious about what makes the algorithms powering those apps so addictive. Hooked by Nir Eyal is an eye-opening read on this topic, it well demystifies some of the black magic and dark patterns behind the trillion dollar enterprise business. Another book which focuses more on practical solutions to the problem is Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I did a
📵
One week digital decluttering
experiment after reading that, and I think it’s a good mindfulness exercise for our digital habits. It’s neither black or white, but I find it helpful to keep social media at a right distance.

Relocation

I left SF in November and I took the chance to take the
🎒
100 thing challenge
. I was asked about why, but I don’t have a firm answer to be honest. Anything makes it a good reason to leave, there’s something else to counterbalance. One thing that I’m a bit regret is that that I’m not living up to the type of ambition that Silicon Valley is known for. I do have or had the hoodies, free snacks, or other perks popularized by the Valley in TV or news. But they’re byproducts, not the substance of any great culture. Remote work carries a disproportion weight on this decision. No one knows for sure what the workplace will look like in the future, but the Pandora’s box once opened can’t be reversed. Airbnb has gradually become my defacto way to find a place for stay in new locations, the random acquaintance with different hosts has always been my favorite part of it, though the overall guest experience is getting homogeneous over the years.

Work

I’m working to learn and I have no interest in climbing the ladder or any kind of status game. That said, I opt out of the game of career advancement. I don’t think I’ve figured out how to do this well yet. But look at the bright side, it leaves me lots of room for improvement. A few takeaways from work that I turned into blog posts.
Posts

Gratitude

There’s a LOT to appreciate. As mentioned, this blog was pretty much inspired by Derek Sivers. I can’t explain why but his ideas, thoughts and life philosophy just click for me. Maybe because he sings the counter-melody. There’s a period of time, I listen to the audible version of Hell Yeah or No everyday and I won’t get bored by doing that. I’ve never done anything similar before.
Friends come and go, I can’t do much about it. But if I’ve made deliberate effort in relationships that are important to me is another story, it is within my control. There’re definitely times that I felt like shit and don’t know how to get passed that bad mental state. Meditation helps unpack certain cloudy emotions, but it’s no substitute for great friendship. A deep conversation, a warm encouragement or a silent company can all make huge difference in an instant. My relationship with parents also gets better. I used to be so impatient about our conversation that it rarely lasts longer than a couple minutes, and I’ve lost faith in understanding each other. But I start to listen more and seek to understand them better, although it’s not easy and it takes practice to get better at communications, at least I can see a path forward. This beautiful article from Tim Urban really brought me to think harder about relationships.
Also the simple fact that I can sit and brain dump all these nonsense in a safe and warm place is an unearned privileged. There’re billions of people suffering from unimaginable chaos and conflicts in the world right now, or maybe always. It still strikes me that the reply I got after asking an office housekeeper lady (from EI Salvador 🇸🇻 ) about her hobby is “What’s a hobby?”.

Wrap up

It’s a long post and so was the year. As a life long sports fan, the most exciting moment of the year has to be Leon Messi and his 🇦🇷 team holding the 🏆 of 2022 World Cup above their head. It ends the endless debate about who’s the GOAT in the soccer world. (Many 💕 and 🫡 for CR7)